Since Victor Orta joined Leeds United he has got the vast majority of his recruitment spot on.
Under Marcelo Bielsa, you need a very particular type of player, someone who’s willing to work hard and press from the front. They have to withstand his meticulous training ideas and his intense murder ball sessions.
Fail that, and you’ll be out the door quicker than you can say Thorp Arch. Jean-Kevin Augustin found that out the hard way.
Signed on loan from RB Leipzig in January 2020, he played just 48 minutes before departing Yorkshire with not even much of a farewell.
However, as Orta will tell you himself, there are plenty in this Leeds squad that appear to be tailor-made in a lab for Bielsa. One of them has been Patrick Bamford.
The striker has attracted his fair share of criticism during his time at Elland Road but this term he’s been a revelation, scoring 13 Premier League goals. To emphasise that achievement, Bamford had netted just once at this level before promotion last year.
One of the players who helped him get to such a promising level at Leeds was Kemar Roofe. The duo played in tandem during the 2018/19 campaign and brought the best out of each other.
Bamford was the player to make things stick up top, acting as a support act for other players. Roofe, meanwhile, was the striker who’d get in behind and stretch the defence.
Indeed, since he departed for Anderlecht in the summer of 2019, Leeds haven’t really had a player capable of doing the same. They tried to replace him with Eddie Nketiah but he never got a chance to prove himself, being recalled to Arsenal after half a season.
Leeds have been a breath of fresh air to the top-flight this term but you can’t help but think they need just a little more pizzazz in the final third. One man who could give them that is Ivan Toney.
The Brentford sensation was linked with a move to the Whites last week and if he arrives, he could replicate what Roofe gave so willingly to Bielsa’s side.
Speaking about the former Leeds man in February 2019, Eddie Gray typified the Rangers’ striker’s qualities expertly. This came after the forward suffered a cruel injury: “It’s a blow for a number of reasons (the injury), goalscoring obviously. He’s lead the line well, but he’s got that little bit of pace. It is something we [Leeds] have not got in abundance. Real pace. I’m talking about, like Norwich pace.”
Indeed, Leeds still lack a bit of speed. Raphinha has added to that but despite their free-flowing capabilities, few in the squad can blow a defender away.
Toney could do that, however. He has had a breathtaking season in the Championship, scoring a haul of 26 goals in 34 outings.
He has pace, and pivotally for Bielsa, can defend from the front. Peterborough owner Barry Fry said before he left for the Bees: “He’s turned into a tremendous all-round footballer. It’s important to remember Ivan is not just an exceptional goal-scoring forward, he’s also an outstanding defender.”
Indeed, those sentiments have also been delivered by Brentford boss Thomas Frank: “Ivan is a special, special player,” he began.
“He showed top positioning in the box, which is what we work with him on, but also he read cleverly (where to go) off the shoulder of the second central defender and showed perfect timing to get in front of him – and then a one-touch, perfect finish, just fantastic,” Frank added.
Playing off the shoulder and picking up little pockets of space is incredibly similar to Roofe. Put Toney’s clinical goal-scoring ability into the equation and you have a far more fearsome proposition.
Frank concluded: “But it is also his work ethic which is so important. Defending from the number nine backwards is key for me and there is so much more about him that he brings to the squad.”
With that in mind, the 24-year-old feels like the perfect man for Bielsa. If they can steal a march on other suitors for Toney’s signature, he would be a first-class signing.